The work of the Appeals Unit focuses primarily on the post-conviction stage of felony litigation in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, the Eighth District Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Ohio. Attorneys from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office have also argued landmark cases in the Supreme Court of the United States.
The Appeals Unit is often called upon to litigate complex appellate issues and issues of first impression that will set precedent in Cuyahoga County. Attorneys in this Unit frequently litigate cases with statewide impact in the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Appeals Unit seeks to affirm valid convictions and to preserve their finality.
In addition to representing the State of Ohio in direct appeals, the Appeals Unit represents the State in matters such as petitions for post-conviction relief, motions for new trial, motions to withdraw guilty pleas, post-conviction requests for DNA testing, and extraordinary writs. Additionally, members of this Unit represent the State’s interests before the Ohio Parole Board.
Attorneys from the Appeals Unit also assist law enforcement officers in the preparation of search warrants.
Members of the Appeals Unit are tasked with ensuring appropriate jail time credit is granted to defendants, that qualifying petitioners are given expungements, and that certificates of qualification for employment are issued where appropriate. When justice demands it, attorneys in this Unit work collaboratively with other members of the criminal justice system to correct legal errors.
The Appeals Unit consists of a Supervising Attorney, several assistant prosecuting attorneys, and professional staff.
In 2014, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office established the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) to investigate claims of wrongful conviction. All prosecutors want those truly guilty of a crime to be held accountable. Our prosecutors work ethically to make sure there are no innocent persons wrongfully convicted. While the trial and appellate processes contain important safeguards for those accused of a crime, we recognize that the criminal justice system is a human institution and, therefore, is not perfect.
The mission of the Conviction Integrity Unit is to review legitimate claims of actual innocence or other compelling claims that warrant review, based on compelling evidence that such review is necessary in the pursuit of truth and justice.
Requirements for Consideration by CIU
For the Conviction Integrity Unit to conduct a preliminary review of a conviction, applicants claiming innocence or a compelling claim must meet the following prerequisites:
The conviction must have been in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court
The applicant must currently be a living person presenting his or her claim of innocence or an otherwise compelling claim
There must be a claim of actual innocence or otherwise compelling claim and not solely a legal issue (previously raised and/or could have been raised at trial or during the appellate process)
New and credible evidence of innocence must exist
The claim must not be frivolous
The applicant must sign a written “waiver” of certain procedural safeguards and privileges, agree to cooperate with the CIU, and agree to provide full disclosure regarding
Review requests must be submitted in writing to the Conviction Integrity Unit, including the applicant’s name, case number, and evidence of actual innocence or evidence of an otherwise compelling claim.
If the review process determines that someone has been wrongfully convicted, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office will file a motion or petition the Court to vacate the conviction on its own or join with the applicant’s legal representative to have the conviction vacated. The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court will decide the merits of the applicant’s claim(s).
Note: If the applicant is represented by legal counsel, all communication with the Conviction Integrity Unit must be through the applicant’s counsel.
Application and Other Resources
To submit a claim that you have been wrongfully convicted of a felony, complete the Conviction Integrity Unit Application form (“Exhibit A”) and the Limited Waiver and Agreement form (“Exhibit B”). Please note that your signature on “Exhibit B” must be notarized. Send both forms and all relevant documents to:
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office
ATTENTION: Conviction Integrity Unit
1200 Ontario Street, 9th Floor
Cleveland, OH 44113
In 2015, the CCPO formed the CSU to coordinate efforts with multiple police departments, other law enforcement agencies, and community stakeholders to implement strategies for decreasing violent crime and to be a central repository of information collection and dissemination to law enforcement agencies county-wide.
“Gun violence has been vexing this county and crippling the safety of residents and visitors of our community.” – Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley
The unit is comprised of five assistant prosecuting attorneys, five crime analysts, one investigator, and one paralegal. The CSU reviews violent offenses (homicides, robberies, shootings) and weapons violations for patterns/connections between incidents and prepares materials for distribution to law enforcement agencies.
The Cuyahoga County Crime Gun Intelligence Center (CGIC)
Due to an increase in violent crime, the CGIC was established in 2018 with the goal of utilizing intelligence, technology, and community engagement to investigate criminal firearm use, criminal firearm sources, and effectively prosecute individuals engaged in violent crime. The CGIC is comprised of members from the CCPO, the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, the Adult Parole Authority, and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office (CCMEO).
The CGIC utilizes the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) to capture and compare ballistic evidence to aid in solving and preventing multi-jurisdictional violent crimes involving firearms. As a result, the CGIC Analysis Center is housed and coordinated at the CCPO.
As a result of the center, the amount of CGIC prosecutions have doubled in the past year. The fund from the grant awarded by the USDOJ will be utilized to enhance the CGIC through the following:
Implement an investigator for the CCPO’s CSU focused on criminal firearm investigations and to act as a liaison between county-wide law enforcement agencies
Increase funding for the CCMEO to amplify firearm and ballistic processing
Implement an Investigative Research Specialist for the CDP’s Real-Time Crime Center to assist with firearm investigations
The Local Law Enforcement Crime Gun Intelligence Center Integration Initiative Grant was awarded in partnership with the CCMEO and the CDP. Along with the CCPO, the CCMEO and the CDP are sub-recipients of the grant.
The CGIC initiative supports interagency collaboration and their efforts to prevent violent crime by identifying individuals, linking criminal activities, and identifying sources of criminal firearms to identify shooters, disrupt criminal activity, and prevent future violence.
The primary objectives of the CGIC initiative include the identification of armed violent offenders, the prosecution of armed violent offenders, the identification of criminal firearms sources, providing law enforcement agencies with the most accurate crime data available, and increasing public safety through the prevention of violent crime committed with firearms.
In 1999, the Economic Crimes and Public Corruption Unit was created to prosecute what is commonly referred to as “white-collar crime.” These are cases involving persons in positions of trust or licensed professionals who commit crimes such as fraud, theft, forgery, and records tampering. This Unit has recouped over $43 million in restitution for crime victims and recovered over $1.8 million in fines.
The Economic Crimes and Public Corruption Unit is made up of experienced attorneys in complex litigation of financial crimes and public corruption and relies on long-standing partnerships with local, state, and federal authorities to successfully convict defendants whose crimes extend beyond a city or county’s geographic borders.
This unit handles most felony indictments returned by a grand jury. Assistant prosecutors work hand-in-hand with police across the county to prepare and litigate felony cases in the Common Pleas Court.
The General Felony unit is organized regionally, with Cuyahoga County broken into five regions each including a Cleveland District and a cluster of suburban communities. General Felony prosecutors are assigned to a region and are assigned only to cases originating in that region. This enables prosecutors to form meaningful relationships with the law enforcement in their region as well as with community leaders. It also helps prosecutors track crime trends and patterns in their regions and identify the specific needs of each community. The types of cases in this unit include robbery, arson, burglary, assault, thefts, sex offenses, and drug crimes.
The Office has expanded its Community-Based prosecution model from the City of Cleveland’s 5 Police Districts and East Cleveland to the entire county. The county has been divided into 5 Regions, each accounting for 20% of the total felony cases.
The Community-Based approach to prosecuting crimes throughout Cuyahoga County creates and maintains relationships between the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and law enforcement agencies as well as victims of crime and concerned citizens. Under the Community-Based model, all Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys (APA) from all Criminal Division Units are assigned to a specific Region and as such are assigned their cases from communities or cities within that region.
The Grand Jury Unit reviews cases and reports submitted by local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators alleging felony criminal activity.
Cases that include sufficient evidence to move forward in the prosecution process, are then presented to a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
A grand jury is made up of 14 people selected from the public. The foreman for each grand jury is appointed by a judge from the Common Pleas Court. Each grand jury serves for four months and meets twice a week.
The grand jury prosecutor then determines the appropriate witnesses and documents to present to the chosen grand jury, while advising them on issues of:
Weight of evidence
After the prosecutor presents all evidence, the grand jury decides if there is:
Probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed
Reasonable belief as to the identity of the person who committed the crime
If the grand jury determines that there is probable cause to indict the defendant on the requested charges, they will issue a “true bill.”
A true bill is the grand jury’s notation that a criminal charge SHOULD go before a jury for trial
If the grand jury determines that there is not probable cause or that there is not a reasonable belief as to the identity of the person who committed the crime, they will issue a “no bill.”
A no bill is the grand jury’s notation that a criminal charge SHOULD NOT go before a jury for trial
The cases that are true billed receive indictments prepared by the grand jury prosecutor that are then signed by the grand jury foreman and Prosecutor O’Malley.
These indictments become public once filed in the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, thus beginning a formal criminal proceeding.
Our unit represents our office in the arraignment room, Cleveland Municipal Court —bind-over proceedings, and Drug Court.
When defendants are informed of the charges against them and are given a bond amount
The prosecutor may object to said bond amount recommendations when the amount seems inappropriate for the charges in the indictment
The grand jury prosecutor also requests a no-contact order with victim(s) as a condition of bond when appropriate
Cleveland Municipal Court — bind-over proceedings
When probable cause hearings are conducted
These determine if criminal cases initiated in the City of Cleveland should be sent to the grand jury
In select cases, the defendant will be referred to Drug Court for treatment
This cooperative program between the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County provides education and treatment for non-violent drug offenders
This program is for individuals either:
Charged with (non-trafficking) felony drug offenses of the third, fourth or fifth degree
Any non-violent felony theft-related offense of the third, fourth or fifth degree where the offender is determined to be a drug-dependent person or at risk of becoming a drug-dependent person
The Major Drug Offender Unit is comprised of assistant prosecuting attorneys that target criminals trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs. Our prosecutors handle the largest and most complicated cases, whereas General Felony Unit prosecutors prosecute the remaining cases under the direct supervision of our unit supervisor. Following indictment, our unit handles these cases through all stages of the criminal justice process.
Our Office also has a strong focus upon prosecuting those low level defendants who would not usually be prosecuted in federal court. This is in an attempt to spotlight their problem and encourage treatment.
When identifying major drug cases, the Unit considers:
The Homicide Unit, operating as a part of the Major Trial Unit, consists of over a dozen seasoned assistant prosecutors who litigate all homicide cases in Cuyahoga County, including death penalty cases, murder, negligent homicide, involuntary and voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated vehicular homicide.
Prosecutor O’Malley, the Cleveland Division of Police, and the United States Attorney’s Office assembled the Cleveland Homicide Review Commission in 2018. The Cleveland Homicide Review Commission, which also includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Authority Police, and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office all meet regularly to review suspected homicides throughout Cuyahoga County.
The Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys assigned to this unit handle cases involving some of our community’s most vulnerable people. The unit prosecutes cases involving crimes against children, including physical abuse resulting in serious physical harm and all types of sexual assaults. The prosecutors work hand in hand with the dedicated workers of Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, Canopy Child Advocacy Center, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and mental health professionals throughout the county to provide support and resources to the young victims and their families. The Special Victims prosecutors seek to hold the perpetrators of these heinous crimes accountable for their actions while creating an environment that recognizes the trauma sustained by the victims during the commission of the crimes as well as the trauma caused by reliving the abuse during the prosecution process.
The unit also prosecutes sexual assaults against adult victims with the same trauma-informed focus to ensure that the victims of sexual abuse are respected during this process and their abusers are held accountable for their crimes.
The unit also handles cases of abuse against elderly victims and cases of patient abuse involving harm caused by the persons entrusted to care for these individuals.
The prosecutors assigned to the Special Victims Section are dedicated to the victims they advocate for as they seek to bring to justice those who prey upon others.
The Victim Witness Unit supports all other Criminal Division Units with dedicated advocates who assist victims of crime and their families while a criminal case is litigated. Our advocates are licensed social workers who provide emotional and other support, including referrals to agencies for counseling and other services, and assistance in navigating the criminal justice system by answering any questions you may have.
Resources for Crime Victims:
Advocates provide resources and assistance to victims, witnesses, and their families throughout the prosecution process.
Counseling, medical, and other social services
Help prepare victim impact statements
Attendance at court hearings
Services for children, disabled, and elderly victims
The Juvenile Justice Division handles cases committed by defendants younger than 18 years of age. Upon receipt of a case from the police, assistant prosecutors determine if a juvenile would benefit from being “diverted” from the juvenile justice process. These juveniles are non-violent offenders who will get necessary resources like counseling to hopefully prevent them from reoffending. This diversion program also helps juveniles to make better decisions in the future. Assistant prosecutors also handle the cases of juveniles who are formally charged.
In 2018, Prosecutor Michael O’Malley recognized the importance of reducing recidivism among young defenders and created the Juvenile Justice Diversion program. This office has worked with the Juvenile Court, the Department of Youth Services, the State of Ohio, and community leaders to design an improved intake process for juvenile offenders.
In 2019 and 2020, the CCPO’s Sexual Assault Kit Task Force (SAKTF)* was awarded grants from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance SAKI program. Part of that funding helped launch the office’s G.O.L.D. Unit in October 2020. The G.O.L.D. Unit contracted with genealogy vendor Gene by Gene for a pilot project that included genealogical searches for 20 DNA profiles connected to cold case sexual assaults. In 2021 and 2022, the G.O.L.D. Unit was awarded additional BJA SAKI grants to continue genealogical testing of sexual assault cold cases and additional profiles were submitted.
*SAKTF / G.O.L.D. Unit History
Since its inception, the Task Force has completed over 7,200 investigations that have resulted in over 850 defendants indicted, the highest number of any SAKTF in the country. The number of indictments includes over 900 victims as several defendants are convicted or alleged serial offenders. Of those cases, the Task Force has secured over a 93% conviction rate with offenders’ average prison sentence being approximately 10 years.
As the original 7,026 investigations neared completion, the CCPO contacted the Cleveland Division of Police (CPD) Sex Crimes Unit who indicated there was a need for further investigation on sexual assault kits that have been tested by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office (CCMEO) between 2012 and 2019. The G.O.L.D. Unit was formed to conduct follow-up investigations and review unknown DNA profiles to determine if they may be eligible for additional testing with new technology. The Unit’s work includes the cold case sexual assault project, potential genealogical testing of cold case sexually motivated homicides, and continuing the Lawfully Owed DNA project. To date, 29 DNA profiles of indicted rapists have been submitted and we have now solved five cases using genealogy.
The SAKTF / G.O.L.D. Unit is led by the CCPO and includes CPD, BCI, CCMEO, Cleveland State University, and the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
The Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force is a federal anti-crime initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. It is a collaboration of city, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies across Ohio whose mission is to identify, arrest, and prosecute individuals who engage in the online exploitation of children.
The Task Force, chaired by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, is comprised of more than 350 affiliate agencies statewide with at least one affiliate agency in each of Ohio’s 88 counties. Affiliate agencies include police departments, county sheriff offices, county prosecutor offices, and other state and federal law enforcement agencies.
Members of the Task Force protect Ohio’s children by conducting proactive and reactive investigations that target online predators.
Members of the Task Force also provide free Internet safety presentations to parents and children and regularly participate in community outreach events.
With new electronic devices, social networking sites, online games, and mobile apps being introduced on a seemingly daily basis, children, more than ever, are vulnerable to being victimized by online predators who have unfettered access to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Members of the Task Force seek to educate parents and children on the potential dangers associated with online activity.
As a component of the Ohio ICAC Task Force, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office currently conducts NO COST outreach presentations to local schools and community organizations. These presentations are conducted by members of the ICAC Task Force and contain important information on how children can stay safe while they utilize the Internet. To request a speaker, please fill out the form below.
The Civil Unit consists of attorneys, paralegals, and administrative professional staff who are experienced in civil litigation, employment and contract law, and many specialized areas of public law. Our unit operates similar to a private law firm in serving public sector clients in cases involving civil rights, labor and employment, wrongful death, and wrongful imprisonment. We advise Cuyahoga County’s officials, departments, agencies, boards, and commissions on legal matters affecting their respective offices and duties. These include the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and Personnel Review Commission.
We additionally advise and represent various independent agencies including:
The Tax Foreclosure Unit of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office provides legal representation for the County Treasurer, County Fiscal Officer, and the Sheriff’s Office on issues relating to judicial sales. Assistant prosecuting attorneys in Tax Foreclosure Unit also handle all legal proceedings relative to the collection of delinquent real property taxes, personal property taxes and manufactured home taxes. The Tax Foreclosure Unit further represents various county officials’ interests in collection proceedings in bankruptcy court, third party foreclosure actions as well as probate land sale actions, appropriation proceedings, and determination of heirs’ actions. Our mission is two-fold: collect unpaid property taxes to support the taxing districts, including local school districts, and combat blighted and abandoned properties by foreclosing to support surrounding properties and get the real estate back to tax-producing use.
The Children and Family Services Unit works closely with the Division of Children and Family Services to support their mission through the provision of legal advice and representation in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court and Eighth District Court of Appeals. The Unit helps support CCDCFS’ goal to provide community-based solutions that protect and nurture at-risk children within a family whenever possible.
The unit has over 25 assistant prosecutors and professional staff who are deployed within the community, at three county sites to provide easily accessible legal services to agency staff. We are headquartered in the Jane Edna Hunter building at East 40th Street and Euclid Avenue. The unit also operates from two satellite offices covering the east and west side of Cleveland — the Quincy Place Neighborhood Family Service Center located at East 82nd Street and Quincy Avenue and the Old Brooklyn Neighborhood Family Service Center facility located at Fulton Parkway and Memphis Avenue.
The Child Support Unit (CSU) is statutory legal counsel for the Cuyahoga County Office of Child Support Services (OCSS). In addition to providing legal advice and support to the OCSS regarding its administrative responsibilities, assistant prosecutors represent the agency’s best interests in paternity and child support proceedings filed in both the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Courts.
Assistant prosecutors represent the OCSS in Juvenile Court in paternity and support establishment and support enforcement actions involving children born to unmarried parents. Enforcement matters include civil contempt actions filed against obligors for failing to pay support and “purge review” hearings in which obligors may face jail time for continued noncompliance.
The Domestic Relations Court cases handled by the Unit primarily involve the enforcement of child support orders between divorced parents. The Unit also handles interstate establishment of paternity and support orders and enforcement of existing out-of-state orders on behalf of custodial parents who live outside Ohio.
In addition to participating in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court actions, child support unit prosecutors may assist in the collection of past due support by filing claims in federal bankruptcy actions, intervening in local foreclosure actions, and negotiating with private counsel to maximize funds applied to child support from personal injury settlement liens.